Consumer health judgments of packaged food were compared with an objective healthfulness criterion using a Brunswik lens model. Consumer judgments were obtained from a representative consumer sample (N= 1329) who evaluated the healthfulness of 198 packaged food products. The objective healthfulness criterion was calculated for each product according to its specific nutrition values using a validated nutrition profile. The lens model included explicit cues such as nutrition values, nutrition and health claims, food category, and brand and implicit cues such a packaging design and category representativeness. The study revealed that the objective healthfulness criterion is highly predictable on the basis of cues such as the food category, brand, carbohydrate content, and whether the food is a typical “light” product. However, consumer judgments of food healthfulness are based almost entirely on the food category and to a lesser extent on the brand and consumer familiarity with the product. The results are in conflict with consumers’ self-reported use of nutrition information but are in accordance with findings from studies using implicit methods.
Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 2014, Vol 13, Issue 4, p. 270-281